Critic’s Corner: ‘Tomorrowland’

Depending on who you ask, the future is either a bleak, apocalyptic wasteland (“Mad Max” anyone?) or it is a shining, clean utopia where everything is pretty and science reigns. Director Brad Bird’s “Tomorrowland” plays with this idea, teases an inevitable apocalypse, and suggests that we can all change the future.

But despite these complex themes, the movie seems to be marketed toward kids, judging by its PG rating and its strong connection with Disneyland. (Tomorrowland is a section of the park containing futuristic rides like Space Mountain.)
However, what makes “Tomorrowland” suffer the most is that it does not know exactly what it wants to be—a prophetic Public Service Annoucement that slaps you in the face a dozen times, or just your formulaic action movie directed towards younger audiences.

Britt Robertson plays the young Casey Newton (clever), an optimistic rebel who wants to believe that something great is out there. She comes across a pin that transports her to Tomorrowland, a magical place where her dreams become reality. After meeting Frank (George Clooney), a recluse inventor who has experienced Tomorrowland, and Athena (Raffey Cassidy), a young automaton, the three attempt to find a way there.

The world of “Tomorrowland” is brimming with innovation, ambition and the realization of dreams. It tries to demonstrate this with a sense of curiosity—not a scene goes by in which a character does not ask a dozen questions. At times, this seems to be the screenwriters’ only means of propelling the story forward, using questions to fill in little details that couldn’t be explained otherwise.

But the biggest problem with “Tomorrowland” is that it sways far too dangerously between a PG Disney movie for kids and a PG-13 action film for teenagers. There are scenes that are awe-inspiring, full of beautiful visuals and retro set designs, but there are also moments where it devolves into a generic sci-fi kids movie with battles against robots, awkward one-liners, and a message that gets batted over your head so many times that it is practically brainwashing—it’s about as subtle as a fart going off during the SAT.

One thing “Tomorrowland” gets right, for the most part, is its performances. George Clooney is fun as a crotchety, former boy-genius. His presence alone makes him the most enjoyable, though it feels at times like he was only brought in to add star-power and drive in older audiences. Britt Robertson is a vibrant spirit on screen with a sense of charisma and purpose. She is brave with a caring soul that hopes for a bright future.

Rounding off the trio is newcomer Raffey Cassidy playing a young robot who is deceptively cute but effectively violent when necessary. She enters her name into a growing list of ferocious women on screen this year—and she is only 13. Some of the film’s younger actors fall flat, while other more seasoned actors, like Hugh Laurie, have to contend with a flat script that is cheesier than gouda.

The story plods along at a decent pace inundated with sufficiently entertaining action scenes that feel a little out of place, some wonky special effects, and jokes that fall short of their mark. By the second half we aren’t really sure what the major threat to the world is, why robots are attacking the main characters, or what is so important about getting to Tomorrowland anyways.

When the big reveal finally comes, it feels as though it was tacked on at the last minute when the writers realized there was no motivation for the villain. This would be fine if it cleared up the plotline, but it doesn’t.

In the end, “Tomorrowland” is a big ambitious film about dreamers, optimists, and the future—but it is also a movie that gets bogged down by mediocre dialogue, nonsensical story elements, and a severe case of identity crisis.

It may be a spectacle for the eyes, but ultimately “Tomorrowland” will probably just inspire you to go to Disneyland rather than save the world—which I’m sure was all part of Disney’s plan.

Bianca Sewake

This is Bianca Sewake's fourth and final year at The Spectator, where she is the Online Content Editor and Managing Editor. She is equal parts excited and terrified that she is graduating with a BA in Journalism this spring. Unlike her hair color, Bianca's love for ice cream will never change.


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